Is Ad Age’s ‘Women to Watch’ Feature Still Necessary?

I was reading the latest Ad Age issue that features the 2012 Women to Watch special report and found myself, as I do every year, in awe. How special, smart and dynamic all these women obviously are, and there have been scores of women like them before throughout the years. All of them incredibly impressive. But my question is where do they all go when we stop watching? What happens to them when the magazine turns to the next issue, and the current one is seen only by victims of their parents’ bragging rights.

What happens to all this impressive potential from the time they are selected for the magazine issue to the time they are  not selected for the boardroom? How is it that men don’t have a special issue of Men to Watch, yet our industry is filled with male CEOs and not enough female C-level executives to make a booth at the Soho House feel crowded? The gender imbalance at the top of the industry might suggest that it’s time to move past citing women’s accomplishments in terms of how they stack up against each other, and solely in terms of how they stack up. This would expose the reality that, despite all these women’s success stories, the C suite remains oddly absent of women.

Don’t get me wrong. I am definitely a champion and advocate for women. In fact, I am an alumnus of Ad Age’s Women to Watch list in 2000. I was extremely honored and sent the requisite copy of the issue to my parents, ex-boy friends and to everyone who ever beat me in Scrabble. But I do wonder — does this type of feature help or hinder the progress of women  in our industry today?

I guess maybe I am being a bit idealistic because at Deutsch we have always had so many women in management and leadership roles. And while they are proud to be women and celebrate their feminine roles in their personal lives such as wife, mother, partner, aunt or whatever, they do not think about their gender as a defining aspect of their business persona. In a competitive business environment, the only thing that matters are business results.

Of course in the final toll, it is not the “Women to Watch” feature or Ad Age that is ultimately responsible for generating true lasting change at the top of our industry — we are. Not only because it is fair and right, but because it’s good business.  Women, such as the individuals in the article, represent money. They are business generators, headline makers, revenue/profit drivers and they positively impact stock prices.

I am an avid reader and fan of Ad Age, but I felt compelled to question the Women to Watch feature and its relevance today. I realize that lauding the accomplishments of star talent is beneficial. But perhaps we have to entertain the possibility that any type of segmentation of talent unduly diminishes that group to a subsegment. At any rate, congratulations to this year’s rock stars and I hope to be joining you at a board meeting soon.


Linda Sawyer

Chief Executive Officer, N.A.

Deutsch Inc.